Passings: Ed Broadbent

A field of flowers at sunset

John Edward (“Ed”) Broadbent, beloved and influential New Democratic Party (NDP) politician with ties to York University, passed away on Jan. 11 at the age of 87.

Before Broadbent was a party-changing leader of the NDP for over a decade, or a Companion of the Order of Canada, he was a York professor. He joined the University in its seventh year in 1966 to teach political science – analyzing with students the thinking of political leaders like Plato and Marx – but his tenure didn’t last long.

Ed Broadbent

In 1968, political destiny courted him away from academia, and he ran in that year’s general election for the NDP in his hometown of Oshawa, Ont., going on to win and earn a spot in the Canadian House of Commons.

He would remain a member of Parliament until 1990 (returning, briefly, from 2004 to 2006) and become the leader of the NDP from 1975 to 1989. During his tenure, he proved instrumental in expanding the party’s influence, increasing their seats in Parliament from 17 to 43.

For his accomplishments, and advocacy of social democracy, he would be named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1993, and promoted to Companion in 2001.

He remained an active influence on politics, and political thinking, even after his tenure in Parliament. He was a long-time president of the International Centre for Human Rights & Democratic Development, and in 2011, he created the Broadbent Institute, a think tank designed to explore and advocate social-democratic policies.

Broadbent remained connected to York throughout his life. In 1991, he received an honorary degree – doctor of laws – from the University. He frequently gave lectures and attended roundtables at the school, and even found love at York, marrying Marxist historian and Professor Ellen Meiksins Wood in 2012.

In October 2023, Broadbent co-authored Seeking Social Democracy: Seven Decades in the Fight for Equality, a mix of memoir and political manifesto that captures a lifetime of Broadbent’s leadership work and beliefs.

A state funeral will be held for Broadbent in Ottawa on Jan. 28.